Elusive Larvadain leads MU past UMass
By MIKE SMITH
AMHERST, MA -- Junior Gage Larvadain caught eight passes for 273 yards, including a school record 99-yard aerial, as Miami defeated UMass 41-28 Saturday at Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium.
The game was scheduled to start at 3:32 p.m., but due to severe weather delays, finished after midnight.
When play finally began, Miami scored . . .
. . . less than two minutes into the game. Brett Gabbert hit Larvadain on a 26-yard TD strike at 13:14.
Two possessions later, UMass drove back down the field and had a pair of cracks at the goal from inside Miami's one-yard line. A third down run - the 16th play of the drive - was particularly close, but officials ruled quarterback Carlos Davis was inches short. Replays did not show enough evidence to overturn the call. A fourth-down run by Kay'Ron Adams was also stopped, and Miami took over.
Weather stopped the game again, but Miami had the ball at its two-inch line when it came back. Two plays later, Gabbert hit Larvadain on a fly pattern down the middle, and he outran defenders to the other end. A front flip into the end zone drew a penalty, but it put MU up 14-0.
After the kickoff, Miami scored again off a fumble on the Minutemen's first play from scrimmage. Caiden Woullard stripped the ball lose on a sack and Kobe Hilton recovered in the end zone.
Miami's defense continued to dominate, forcing three punts and recording an interception. However, the Minutemen also picked off a pass, with Deshaun Jenkins grabbing a tipped ball and racing 53 yards for the score.
Gabbert and Lavardain connected for a third TD -- this one from 13 yards out on a slant with 2:51 remaining. UMass tried a late field goal, but it fell short and MU took a 28-7 lead to the locker room.
UMass regrouped at halftime and scored on a pair of long pass plays. The first went from quarterback Carlos Davis to Greg Desrosiers Jr. for 32 yards. The second came at 2:51 of the third period and pulled UMass within 10 at 38-28. Penalties on both teams marked the long drive, and the Minutemen were facing 3rd-and-20 when Davis found a streaking Mark Pope behind Miami's secondary for a 50-yard TD play.
Miami's subsequent drive yielded three points on a 33-yard Graham Nicholson field goal. However, Davis tossed his third touchdown of the game on a five-yard flip to George Johnson III at 11:16 of the final stanza.
That left plenty of time for the hosts, who now trailed MU by just three at 31-28. Once again, though, Miami struck back in lightning-quick fashion. On the next play from scrimmage, Gabbert hit Larvadain streaking down the middle. He was inside the 10 when a defender stripped the ball away, ricocheting into the end zone. Miami receiver Cade McDonald, who was trailing the play fell on the ball and MU restored its 10-point edge.
Davis, who completed 22-of-32 for 244 yards and three touchdowns, left the game midway through the fourth quarter and was replaced by Brady Olson. He went 0-for-3 with one interception down the stretch. Miami added a 44-yard Nicholson field goal for the final 41-28 margin.
For the day, Gabbert completed 12-of-22 passes totaling 302 yards with four TDs (three to Larvadain and one to McDonald off Larvadain). All other receivers combined for a total of four catches. Gabbert threw two interceptions, both of which deflected into UMass hands. One was returned for a score.
Meanwhile, the RedHawks ground game also made a solid contribution with 144 yards - most off the efforts of 6-2, 234-pound sophomore Rashad Amos. He ran 23 times for a total of 115 yards (5.0 ypc).
Matt Salopek led MU's defensive effort with 14 tackles (5 solo, 1 sack, 2 TFL).
Editor-Publisher Mike Smith
Mike grew up in Mid-American Conference football and basketball territory and returned there after military service. He has been covering MAC football and men's basketball for much of the last several decades.